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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: June ::
Re: *Metamorphoses*; Shakespeare's Library
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0498.  Tuesday, 20 June 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Thomas G. Bishop <
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        Date:   Monday, 19 Jun 1995 12:01:16 -0400
        Subj:   Re: Metamorphoses
 
(2)     From:   David Wilson-Okamura <
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        Date:   Monday, 19 Jun 95 11:13:40 CDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0492 Sh Library
 
(3)     From:   David Kathman <
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        Date:   Monday, 19 Jun 1995 23:13:35 +0100
        Subj:   Shakespeare's library
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas G. Bishop <
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Date:           Monday, 19 Jun 1995 12:01:16 -0400
Subject:        Re: Metamorphoses
 
The baleful authorship question rears its head around poor old Arthur Golding
in Stephanie Hughes post on Ovid, where she asserts that Golding's "authorship
is questionable since Ovid is a work of rollicking pagan sensuality and the
rest of Golding's life would be devoted to translating Calvin."  This is a
perfect example of the kind of thing that misleads interested people on the
"authorship question" itself. It seems invidious, as well as inaccurate, to
deprive Golding of what little fame he has because his work on Ovid is
perceived to be inconsistent with an interest in Calvinist morals. (No doubt we
shall shortly hear that Ovid was in fact translated by that paragon of
"rollicking pagan sensuality" Edward de Vere). But in fact Ovid was very widely
read in this period as a profound and searching moralist, whose metamorphic
fables yielded the wisdom of pagan sensibilities (such as it was, and it was
substantial, if not complete) in allegorical form. Sandys' later translation
even provided moral signposts in case readers got lost. Although Marlowe might
have read Ovid for "rollicking" purposes, it's dollars to donuts that many
didn't. Golding's translation is wonderful although, "Ezra Pound
notwithstanding", occasionally rather clunky, but it isnt exactly "rollicking"
-- stately, earnest, fulsome and vivid yes -- the work of a similarly earnest
moral imagination. Shakespeare read its English deeply and lastingly, much more
so than the Latin original. But leave the laurels to Golding please, and dont
confuse the unwary with semi-historical judgments on what rollicks and what
doesn't.
 
Tom Bishop
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Wilson-Okamura <
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Date:           Monday, 19 Jun 95 11:13:40 CDT
Subject: 6.0492 Sh Library
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0492 Sh Library
 
Stephanie Hughes comments on Golding's translation of the *Metamorphoses*,
 
>It was attributed to Arthur Golding, but his authorship is questionable
>since Ovid is a work of rollicking pagan sensuality and the rest of
>Golding's life would be devoted to translating Calvin.
 
I don't really think there are any grounds to question Golding's authorship in
this instance.  First, because "the rollicking pagan sensuality" of Ovid's poem
was frequently subject to moral allegorization, and in fact Golding himself
published an allegory of the poem with his translation.  Second, I don't think
it's quite fair to oppose "pagan sensuality" to Calvinism.  To take just one
famous example, the early Milton was a Calvinist, and it is the early Milton
who would appear to revel most in "pagan sensuality" and myth. In fine, there
need not have been any contradiction between Golding the translator of Ovid and
Golding the translator of Calvin.
 
(Obitaneously, I don't think "rollicking" is quite word for the sensuality in
Ovid's poem, either; it's mostly just rape.)
 
                                        Yours faithfully,
                                        David Wilson-Okamura
                                        
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(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Kathman <
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Date:           Monday, 19 Jun 1995 23:13:35 +0100
Subject:        Shakespeare's library
 
I see that Stephanie Hughes has been testing the limits of Hardy's ban on
discussion of the a-word (hint: begins with "a", ends with "p", and has
"uthorshi" in the middle) by means of a mini-blitz of postings.  I know we've
all agreed that this is not the forum for this stuff, but Ms. Hughes' posting
on Shakespeare's library contained so many inaccuracies that I hope I will be
forgiven for attempting to correct some of them, after which I will retire to
the shadows once again; if anyone, including Ms. Hughes, wishes to continue the
discussion over private e-mail, I'd be happy to do so.  Most of this stuff has
been gone over on this list numerous times, so please forgive the repetition.
I'll try to be as brief as possible; more details are available on request.
 
SH: In four hundred years of intense investigation, no one has ever turned up a
>single piece of evidence that William Shakespeare of Stratford owned a book.
 
DK: I would dispute this statement.  For one thing, there is a 1596 memorandum
from a lawsuit involving two Stratford widows, Margaret Young and Joan Perrott,
which lists some disputed property; among this is "one book" belonging to "Mr.
Shaxspere".  This could refer to either William or to his father John, but in
either case it does not support the idea that this was a family of illiterate
bumpkins; if the book belonged to John, I think the default assumption would be
that his eldest son could also read.  In any case, I think this has to count as
evidence that at least one of the Shakespeare men owned at least one book.
 
Another piece of evidence is the Folger Shakespeare Library's copy of William
Lambarde's *Archaionomia*, a treatise on Anglo-Saxon law.  This has a signature
on the title-page which many, many very knowledgeable people believe to be that
of William Shakespeare.  I will not attempt to summarize the evidence here, but
it is summarized by Samuel Schoenbaum's *William Shakespeare: Records and
Images* (1981), and by Giles Dawson in an article he wrote for *Shakespeare
Quarterly* a few years ago (1992?), a couple of years before his death.
Schoenbaum, a notorious skeptic, believes that the signature is more likely to
be genuine than not (and for him, that's saying a lot), and Dawson believed
flat-out that the signature is genuine.  I think the evidence is pretty
persuasive; if the signature was forged, the forger was one of the best ever.
Now, true, even if you accept the signature as genuine, it doesn't
*necessarily* mean that Shakespeare ever owned or read the book, but it's
*evidence* pointing in that direction.
 
SH: It is questionable whether or not he knew how to read or write.The only
writing extant by him is six signatures on legal documents that look as though
they were scrawled by someone who had only the vaguest idea of how to sign his
own name.
 
DK: Five of the signatures were made under less-than-ideal circumstances: the
three on the will when he was very likely dying, and the two on the Gatehouse
documents had to fit on narrow parchment seals.  Even given this, experts in
Elizabethan handwriting find them to be entirely typical examples of the
Elizabethan secretary hand, except for the "p" in "Shakespeare", which he wrote
in the newer italic hand.  To a modern observer ignorant of the history of
English handwriting, even the most meticulous examples of secretary hand can
look like chicken scratch.
 
SH: In that time when books were expensive, particularly the ones Shakespeare
used as reference,
 
DK: No, sorry.  Some books were expensive, but many were very cheap and within
the reach of anybody.  Shakespeare undoubtedly had access to books published by
his friend Richard Field, some of which are known to have been used for the
plays.  Ben Jonson gave himself the best classical education in England while
working as a bricklayer's apprentice for several years; Thomas Dekker was
notoriously poor and spent several years at the peak of his career in debtor's
prison, yet his plays show that he read many, many books.  Other examples could
be given.  Shakespeare was fairly well-off, and there is no reason to doubt
that he had access to the books he used.
 
SH: he named no books in his will.
 
DK: Neither did a long list of the most learned scholars and literary men of
the time whose wills have survived, including Francis Bacon, Richard Hooker,
Reginald Scot, Samuel Daniel, and Shakespeare's friend Thomas Russell.  Doesn't
mean a thing.  People just didn't list every little thing in their wills,
unless they were making a special bequest of a specific item.
 
SH: Of even the least important writers there is evidence of their attendance
at grammar schools, university or inns of court;
 
DK: This is flat-out false.  Ben Jonson was the most famous and learned writer
of the day, yet there is no contemporary record of his having attended any
school of any kind.  The same goes for John Webster, George Chapman, Henry
Chettle, Robert Daborne, Thomas Dekker, Michael Drayton, Thomas Heywood, and
many others I could name.  Those are just some of the reasonably important ones
who were active during Shakespeare's lifetime. To be fair, in some of these
cases (such as Jonson) there is some scrap of evidence that leads modern
scholars to believe that the person attended a certain school, but the records
of the school (in Jonson's case, Westminster) are silent on the matter.
 
SH: there is no evidence of Shakespeare ever attending any school.
 
DK: No, but of course all records of students at the Stratford Grammar School
before 1700 have been lost.  The *circumstantial* evidence that William
Shakespeare attended this school is pretty extensive, quite apart from his
having later become a playwright.
 
SH: It seems apparent that no members of his family, father, mother, wife, or
daughters, knew how to read or write.
 
DK: We had this thread a few months ago.  His daughter Susannah could certainly
sign her name, from which we can infer that she was literate. His father may
well have been literate despite signing all surviving documents with a mark.
 
All right, I'm done; sorry for taking up this space.  I'll be good now, Hardy.
When the Shakespeare Usenet group gets going, we can take this stuff over
there.
 
Dave Kathman

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